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Former NBA player addresses Innovation Summit

by Emily Baccam | September 25, 2019 at 4:00 a.m.
Former NBA player Ronnie Brewer Jr. speaks at the annual Education Innovation Summit in the Hot Springs Convention Center on Tuesday. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record

Former Razorback and NBA player turned educator Ronnie Brewer Jr. took the stage Tuesday to explain the magnitude of the impact teachers have on students and his own life at the annual Education Innovation Summit.

Brewer played collegiately at the University of Arkansas, the alma mater of his father, Ronnie Brewer Sr. He was the 14th pick in the 2006 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. During his career, Brewer also played for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. He most recently played for the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Development League.

Nowadays, Brewer is a radio host for ESPN NW Arkansas 99.5 FM's Power Hour, Fayetteville High School oral communications teacher and has his own charity, The Ronnie Brewer Foundation.

Brewer said if it were not for his high school teachers at Fayetteville he would have never majored in journalism in college and consequently would not be prepared for his current roles.

"That's something they really influenced in my life," he said, noting the U of A educators continued to impact his life.

"My advisers pushed me really, really, really hard academically."

Brewer gave special credit to professor Gordon Morgan and told one of his favorite anecdotes about his mentor, which elicited a bit of laughter from the audience.

"One day, Dr. Morgan said, 'I think you're wasting your talents. With your hand-eye coordination, I think you're selling yourself short. I think you should drop basketball, quit basketball, try to be a heart surgeon.'"

Brewer said it did not take long for his coach to hear about the conversation.

"Our head coach, he came to class with me one day. He was like 'Hey, Dr. Morgan. I need you to stop telling that to the class. We need Ronnie on the basketball court to get some wins.'"

Brewer laughed, and said "Dr. Morgan was a huge influence in my life. He's a really good professor and really molded me."

Though his professors did influence him, Brewer only studied at college for three years and left to join the NBA without graduating.

"After having a three-year career at Arkansas, I promised my mom that if she allowed me to go to the NBA, I promised I would come back and finish college. Everybody was actually like laughing like 'You're not really gonna come back to school. You're going to be making millions of dollars.' I was like, No, you know my mom. I'm going to come back and finish school."

He discussed the impact that Boys & Girls Clubs have had on his life, and his attempts "to give back" with the Ronnie Brewer Foundation through school supplies, scholarships, basketball camps, mentorships and more.

"The work is not over yet. I think it is just beginning, and it's with these people in this room. We come up with different ideas, come up with different initiatives to take something small, a small idea, and make it grow into something really, really big, and be the change you want to see," he said.

Brewer ended his remarks with the memory of a high school English teacher that had been influential in his life.

"I'm just thinking about the impact that she was able to have. You know, our impact is never understood at the moment that we're having."

Local on 09/25/2019

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